Fire destroys campsite and 500 hectares in south of France

PARIS (Reuters) -A fire in the south of France burned through 500 hectares of land and destroyed a campsite, with 2,000 people evacuated before the blaze was brought under control on Tuesday, and the French environment minister said climate change exacerbated conditions of drought that fed the fire.

No residents or tourists were injured in the fire, French authorities said.

“Drought and fire are two sides of the same coin: climate change,” Christophe Bechu, minister of the ecological transition, said in a tweet during a visit to site of the fire in the Pyrenees-Orientales region near the Spanish border.

The blaze tore through a tourist area around 30 minutes from Perpignon, which was vulnerable due to “intense heat, dryness and tumultuous winds of up to 180km/h”, authorities said.

Most of the evacuees have been able to return to their accommodation or homes, but a few dozen tourists were still waiting to be rehoused, Bechu told reporters in Saint-Andre. Some of those people lost their documents, money and cars in the blaze, Bechu said.

He added that this summer has seen fewer fires than last year, when 70,000 hectares were burnt to cinders, but it was necessary to be “humble” as summer was not over.

Five regions in the east of the country are currently on “high alert” for heatwaves, according to the French weather authority Meteo France website.

(Reporting by Layli Foroudi, editing by Ed Osmond and David Gregorio)